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Health Care for the Aging Baby Boom: Lessons from Abroad


  • Uwe E. Reinhardt


The economic, social, and political challenges posed by the aging of the population are real in many nations, under virtually any set of assumptions about the future. However, cross-national data on health spending on the elderly, to be presented in the following section, suggest that in health care this challenge appears to be manageable, as long as the nation's health system is being managed smartly. Unfortunately, Americans tend to be unimpressed by cross-national comparisons of health systems, apparently on the axiom that American health care is so vastly superior to that anywhere else on the globe as to render any cross-national comparison irrelevant for American health policy. In deference to that sentiment, the cross-national data presented here are supplemented with data on intra-U.S. variation in health spending on the elderly. Jointly, these cross-national and intranational data suggest that, in the United States, the economic burden of providing health care for the aging baby boom generation is amplified by a poorly managed and needlessly expensive health system.

Suggested Citation

  • Uwe E. Reinhardt, 2000. "Health Care for the Aging Baby Boom: Lessons from Abroad," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(2), pages 71-83, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:14:y:2000:i:2:p:71-83 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.14.2.71

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jonathan Gruber & David Wise, 2001. "An International Perspective on Policies for an Aging Society," NBER Working Papers 8103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David M. Cutler & Ellen Meara, 1998. "The Medical Costs of the Young and Old: A Forty-Year Perspective," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 215-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Khwaja, Ahmed, 2010. "Estimating willingness to pay for medicare using a dynamic life-cycle model of demand for health insurance," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 130-147, May.
    2. Shingo Takahashi & Masumi Kawade & Ryuta Ray Kato, 2009. "Spousal Tax Deduction, Social Security System and the Labor Supply of Japanese Married Women," Working Papers EMS_2009_16, Research Institute, International University of Japan.
    3. Sherry Glied, 2003. "Health Care Costs: On the Rise Again," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(2), pages 125-148, Spring.
    4. Steven Globerman & Luther H. Hodges & Aidan Vining, 2004. "Canadian And Us Health Care Systems Performance And Governance: Elements Of Convergence," Public Economics 0404003, EconWPA.
    5. repec:eee:socmed:v:184:y:2017:i:c:p:1-14 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Philip H. Brown & Caroline Theoharides, 2009. "Health‐seeking behavior and hospital choice in China's New Cooperative Medical System," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(S2), pages 47-64, July.
    7. Peter Lindert, 2003. "Why The Welfare State Looks Like a Free Lunch," Working Papers 27, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    8. Toshihiro Ihori & Ryuta Ray Kato & Masumi Kawade & Shun-ichiro Bessho, 2005. "Public Debt and Economic Growth in an Aging Japan," CARF F-Series CARF-F-046, Center for Advanced Research in Finance, Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo.
    9. Ihori, Toshihiro & Kato, Ryuta Ray & Kawade, Masumi & Bessho, Shun-ichiro, 2011. "Health insurance reform and economic growth: Simulation analysis in Japan," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 227-239.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination


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